by Atsushi Ebihara
OSAKA Cheap Clay Matthews Jersey , Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- This commercial hub of western Japan has recently completed its first bicycle lanes in one of its main downtown streets but residents should have to wait for more time to find out the viability of the lanes, which are different from those found in Western countries.
City authorities here have decided to build the bicycle lanes to reduce the number of traffic accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians, which have been on the rise lately.
Since early September, the Osaka City Public Works Bureau has started construction of a bicycle lane on a 500-meter section in the two-way Honmachi-dori, one of the busiest streets in central Osaka. The bureau found the section as the most suitable place for the new project to decrease the number of bicycles hitting sidewalk pedestrians.
In Japan, cyclists are allowed to travel in both directions on a sidewalk.
Following relocation of the original automobile lanes, workers painted the new one-meter-wide lane blue and installed new traffic signs along the street to demark the new bicycle lanes, urging all drivers and pedestrians to use the public space properly.
In Osaka, compared with other major cities, such as Tokyo, Sapporo and Fukuoka, cycling is more popular as a means of transportation among commuters. This is because the flat city has no mountains or prominent hills and the climate is good for bicycling, being mostly sunny throughout the year. A recent health- consciousness trend has also encouraged cycling.
More importantly, fares for public transportation such as subways and buses have become expensive considering the size of the city. For example, commuters pay at least 200 yen (about 2 U.S dollars) for adult subway fare up to three kilometers and 230 yen or more for longer distances. The tickets are on average 1.5 times higher than in Tokyo.
According to the bureau, however, the cycling trend has had a negative effect because the number of bicycle-pedestrian collisions has increased over the past few years. There were 147 such accidents reported in 2012, up from 121 cases in the previous year, although the total number of accidents involving bicycles is dropping gradually, with about 6,500 cases in 2012.
Local media, meanwhile, warn that the recent spike in reported accidents is mainly due to the increasing number of elderly people who generally have poorer vision and lack the physical strength to properly maneuver their bicycles often causing injuries to others if not to themselves.
The city, therefore, decided to add the bicycle lanes. But Satoru Fujisawa, a bureau spokesman, commented that the new project on the 21-meter-wide street does not make the environment completely safe.
One safety issue arises from vehicles parking in the lanes and impeding the smooth flow of traffic. Parking on the side of the street for five minutes is allowed under Japanese traffic laws on many streets, and vehicles are even allowed to park along the new bicycles lanes for five minutes.
Meanwhile, drivers turning left at an intersection have to use the lane. This means both cyclists and drivers must pay more attention to each other to avoid accidents on the new lanes, which are not physically separated as the so-called "cycle tracks" that are popular in Europe.
Fujisawa admitted to Xinhua that there is a need for further study on how the new lanes would actually perform and how they will affect motorists who use the streets. Then a decision will be made on whether the city will add lanes to more streets or instead build cycle tracks.
"In central Osaka, there is only one two-kilometer cycle track, which was constructed in the 1970's, but since then we have not built other such tracks for cyclists because we haven't had strong demand from residents," Fujisawa said.
Fujisawa added that construction costs for such a road will be higher, more than double for the same distance, compared with the bicycle lanes because the city would have to rearrange the whole road layout for cyclists in the 223-square-kilometer city.
A final decision on the new policy will be made after the test along Honmachi-dori, but with Osaka's residents living in the most densely populated among Japan's major cities--12,000 per square kilometer--the city's emphasis now is on first educating commuters and motorists on safety measures while walking or driving on the streets.
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